Thursday, 18 October 2012

In the Belly of a Whale!

It was our 4th Birthday at Messy Church last Saturday and it was wonderful to be able to welcome families who have been with us since the very beginning; families whose children weren't even born 4 years ago, and families who were joining us for the very first time. We have been so blessed over the last 4 years with some wonderful families who've made Messy Church their home, so we wanted to make this session extra special to thank God for all he's been doing in our lives and the lives of our Messy families! 

Our theme was 'Jonah' and  each craft helped the children and parents to think about the story....some children were hearing it for the first time!

Jelly Lucky Dip!
I wrapped a bucket in blue paper and stuck a whale (with a big mouth!) on the front. Inside the bucket, I made up 10 pints of jelly (lemon yum!) and then added a few bits and pieces from around the house (bouncy balls, giant paper clips, keys, plastic toys etc, together with a figure of a someone who looked as if he could be Jonah!). We asked the children to have a delve in the bucket to see if they could find him! There were sweetie prizes as an incentive, however most of the children (and even some adults) didn't seem to have any kind of reservations about fishing about in the belly of this whale! We talked with the children about what it must have been like for Jonah inside the whale - probably just as slimy as this bucket but maybe not so sweet-smelling!

Which Fish? Game
We covered a table in blue cloth and scattered whale cut-outs, some of which had a picture of Jonah stuck on the under-side. The cut-outs had paper-clips attached to their mouths and we handed the children home-made magnetic fishing rods (we've used these so many times over the last 4 years!) to see 'which fish' had swallowed Jonah!

Jonah prayers
Using speech bubble post-it notes, we asked the children to stick their 'Jonah Prayers' onto a cut-out of a giant whale with Jonah sitting in the middle. We took this into church for our celebration time and read out the prayers that the children had posted. We took the time to remind the children that although we all do things wrong sometimes, Jesus died for us so that we can approach God knowing that he will always forgive us when we are sincerely sorry for messing up. 

Jonah Fish Sandwiches
We made 'Jonah Fish Sandwiches' using whale cutters I'd found on a visit to Hobbycraft (10 for £1!). However, when the shape was cut out, it didn't look much like a whale so not one of my better bargains! The children spread the inside of the sandwich with a choice of honey, marmalade or jam (or all three!) and then sandwiched the two halves of bread together with a gummy bear inside to represent Jonah.

Origami boats
Our origami boats are ones we've tried and tested many times before (Jesus calms the storm, Noah and the Ark, Jesus calls his disciples to become fishers of men, etc etc!) The children also fixed sails to their boat using a drinking straw mast. We talked about the part of the story where Jonah tried to run away from God and how he and his fellow crew members were in danger from the storm which blew up when they were on the ship. Jonah knew what had to be done - but he couldn't have guessed what would happen next! 

Pop-up Jonah!
'Peggy' the Whale!
Using a photocopied
template of a fish, which we folded into a cone shape, we then attached a Jonah picture to the end of a straw and the children had great fun re-creating the part of the story where Jonah was spat out onto the beach!

Our 'Peggy the Whale' craft was popular with the children, simply attaching two 'halves' of the whale to the bottom and top of the sides of a peg. Great fun! 

In the Belly of the Whale
As the children came into the church, we displayed all of the craft session photos on the overhead screen, accompanied by the Newsboys 'In the Belly of the Whale'. During our celebration, adapting the words of 'Our God is Great Big God' and writing another couple of verses to make it a song about Jonah (sort of worked!), we also involved the children and adults to tell the story of Jonah using a very simple script and a power-point on the overhead screen as a prompter for everyone to join with sounds effects (storm noises, splash! as Jonah was thrown overboard, people of Nineveh saying 'sorry God' etc). The whale was made from 2 zimmer frames (yes, I did say zimmer frames) covered in black bin liners with paper teeth and polystyrene balls for eyes , but you could use a child's pop-up tent, small table, etc - anything large enough for a child to climb into! 

Our tea time was great but you should have seen the children's faces when I produced the bucket of jelly and asked who wanted some! :-) Can't wait for the next Messy on 10th November when we'll be looking at the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den!  

If anyone would like more information (scripts, templates) you can contact me via e-mail


  1. That's some awesome ideas. Please post more!

  2. I pinned your Jonah and the whale clothes pin idea, after using it at my church, and I've had 570 repins! When people click it should bring back to your site. What a great idea!! Thanks for sharing it! Many children are being blessed!

  3. Can you post a link to the template you used for the pop-up Jonah?

  4. Do you have a template for the cone fish or clothespin craft?

  5. I like your idea of the bucket. Can I use it in an educational map to tell Bible stories to refugee-children. It is not for commercial use.
    If it is allright we put the name of your website underneath.

    Thank you already for your answer.
    Steveline (Holland)